One of the most rewarding things of 2017 was seeing these Demonstration Farm signs pop up on the farms. For the first time I saw the farmers driving change themselves and I felt that we are finally making real progress in changing peoples' lives.
2017 continued to surprise, delight and shock with its FIRSTS and I am happy to share some of our firsts below!
We continued to support more than 500 farmers with seeds, supported 5 nursery schools by paying 2 teachers and ensuring that more than 500 children eat every day at school.
Next year we celebrate 10 years of being a registered charity. Thank you for being with us on our journey and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.
The FIRST Vision Hope Nursery School Graduation
Vision Hope Nursery School started out as a sketch in the dirt back in 2013. In 2015 the door of the mud hut opened and 74 children started their education under the leadership of James Okumu. Today there are 350 children registered and in October they celebrated the first graduation as 123 children stepped out into the big world of Primary School. Penny and I were very honoured to be the guests of honour, together with the local MP!
The FIRST Seeds for Development Residential Training Course
25 farmers and 5 Head Teachers travelled to the south of the country. For some, it was the first time they had left their village. The farmers spent a week learning about organic farming and farming as a business. The head teachers spent the week learning about overcoming the obstacles and building a community school from scratch. They went home fired up to implement all they had learned and teach everyone else as well.
The FIRST invasion of The Elegant Grasshopper
During my visit in May we were struck with potential disaster. Every farmer who had received our Maize seeds was being invaded by these incredibly beautiful but deadly grasshoppers. It was so lucky that I was there and that we could immediately act by buying the chemicals, training the farmers and sending a taskforce out to spray every farm. It was so tough having to use chemicals on our organic farms, but with the choice being food or no food, there wasn't actually a choice to be made.
The FIRST Robusta Coffee Harvest
In 2011 we planted 30,000 coffee seeds, In 2012 we transported 28,000 seedlings to the north where they were transplanted on 286 farms. This year the farmers had their first full harvest of Robusta. This is a huge achievement for us as we were told by everyone and anyone that coffee could not be grown from seed on a commercial scale in northern Uganda. Admittedly there are only about a third left, but we believe our pilot has worked and now the farmers are reaping the rewards and enjoying their coffee!
The FIRST Chilli Peppers
This is a fabulous project! The farmers have planted chilli peppers, which will provide crops for up to 5 years. Penny and I brought loads back and are selling them to raise funds for more enterprise projects like this. The best thing about it is that the farmers used their initiative and it was a wonderful surprise to see their entrepreneurial skills in action! If you would like to buy some, please get in touch!
The FIRST visit to a refugee camp
We were so sad to hear about the plight of the South Sudanese refugees and how they were fleeing into Uganda, where they were put in IDP camps. In May I went to see for myself what it was like and how the UK were supporting them. It was shocking to hear in one camp where the refugees had been staying for a year that there was no food, nothing to eat at all. The only sign of any UK help was this red wheely bin. In the other camp it was quite overwhelming to see how the UN were dealing with thousands of refugees coming every day. I wasn't allowed to take any photos, so can't share with you here.
The FIRST Northern Uganda SINGS! Project
When Tim Peters graduated from university, he wanted to do something for Seeds for Development. So together with his girlfriend Helen, Tim fundraised and they went to northern Uganda to teach all of our beneficiaries to sing as a choir! Northern Uganda was full of the sound of singing, laughter and joy as farmers groups, parents and children learned how to sing as a choir. Next year, to celebrate our 10th birthday, we plan to run a Choir Festival!